It's Taranaki's first real defence of the Shield this season. Who's going to take it out?
All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore will start from the bench in Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield defence against Tasman tomorrow night.
Hore only arrived in New Plymouth yesterday afternoon after several days fulfilling promotional commitments for the national side.
His late arrival forced Tenderlink Taranaki coach Colin Cooper's hand.
"If he had been here he would have come into consideration," Cooper said. "But he's really, really keen and we'll still have two lineout sessions with him."
There are just two changes to the Taranaki starting side from last week's match against Bay Of Plenty, with hooker Laurence Corlett coming in for Timo Tutavaha, who drops out of the 22-man squad, and Willie Rickards getting a run at centre with Kurt Baker shifting to fullback for the injured Andre Taylor.
Although there was some temptation to keep Baker at centre, a position he looked to struggle with at times last week, Rickards' experience in the No 13 jersey, in what could be a bruising opening, won out.
"There is a lot more at stake this week, so we just wanted to be sure in that position," Cooper said.
There are several swaps on the bench where Brett Goodin comes in for Kylem O'Donnell and Jackson Ormond earns a recall after a couple of runs in the development side.
Flanker Chris Walker, who played exceptionally well in his 50 minutes against Bay Of Plenty, retains his place ahead of Scott Waldrom, who Cooper said had a "slight niggle".
Kane Barrett is still feeling the effects of a virus that has dogged him for a couple of weeks and stays on the bench, allowing Blade Thomson to start for a second week at No 8.
While Thomson was not as prominent around the field as some of his team-mates against Bay of Plenty, the amount of work he got through in the tight meant he deserved another run.
There were also positive signs at training yesterday with injured captain Craig Clarke getting heavily involved, signalling he could be back playing as early as next week.
Cooper has also stuck with young halfback Jamison Gibson-Park after his promising national provincial championship debut. Goodin's return, after he broke his leg in club rugby in March, showed how much work he had put in to get back involved.
New recruit, Hurricanes halfback Chris Smylie, is expected to play for the development team against Wellington B.
The Taranaki squad went through several heavy sessions earlier in the week as Cooper looked to find ways of improving their play at Mt Maunganui.
"I thought the game was messy up there, even though we were rapt to get five points from such an ugly game," he said.
"We learnt a lot of things from the game, particularly defensively, and we are going to have to be on our game because they showed what they can do against Canterbury. We don't want to be kicking the ball away to them because they have got a lot of good ball runners."
Tasman coach Kieran Keane was obviously happy with what his side produced and has stuck with the same combination.
Taranaki: Kurt Baker, Waisake Naholo, Willie Rickards, Jayden Hayward, Frazier Climo, Beauden Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Blade Thomson, Chris Walker, Jarrad Hoeata, Jason Eaton (captain), James Broadhurst, Michael Bent, Laurence Corlett, Chris King. Reserves, Andrew Hore, Carl Carmichael, Kane Barrett, Scott Waldrom, Brett Goodin, James Marshall, Jackson Ormond.
Tasman: Robbie Malneck, Peter Betham, Bryce Heem, Andrew Goodman (captain), James Lowe, Hayden Cripps, Jeremy Su'a, Jordan Taufua, Shane Christie, Joe Wheeler, Tevita Cavubati, Filipo Levi, Campbell Johnstone, Quentin MacDonald, Sam Prattley. Reserves, Francis Smith, Tim Perry, Vernon Fredericks, Tevita Kolomatangi, Steve Alfred, Kieron Fonotia, George Millar.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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